Daily Archives: 20 January 2006

Selling Ming Short Part II

As expected, the “bridge to the future” slogan is pretty much the one thing that most media outlets have reported from Ming Campbell’s launch yesterday. Nick Clegg repeats it in his Guardian article today as well.

As I said earlier, this really does sap my enthusiasm for Ming as leader. No other candidate is being forced to address what comes after him in this way, and in my view he is being very badly advised to make it the central theme of his campaign. I cannot see the virtue of making the single best reason to not vote for your candidate the one thing that you repeat ad nauseum.

And I’m afraid, Nick’s article makes me still more uneasy. As with Apollo commentator Pip, I find this paragraph quite sinister:

… One of the most obvious lessons I extract from the messy fall of Charles Kennedy is that the party cannot afford to have another leader who does not enjoy the unambiguous loyalty of the overwhelming majority of his parliamentary colleagues. A leader who spends his time looking over his shoulder to make sure his own colleagues are on side cannot be effective in making advances against the other parties.

This sounds like something not a million miles away from blackmail. Yes, of course the parliamentary party needs to have confidence in the leader. But in a party that is founded on the principle of one member one vote, the parliamentary party also has a moral duty to respect the party’s wishes. It is a two way street. We’ve had a month of being told what to think by the parliamentary party – now it’s our turn.

Selling Ming Short

While I’ve come out as a Chris Huhne supporter, I consider myself very much a friend to Menzies Campbell’s campaign. He commands the support of a lot of people I deeply respect and I have no doubt whatsoever of his abilities or the qualities he would bring to the top post.

I have however had great misgivings about the mixed messages coming out of his campaign. The Scotland on Sunday article a few days ago confirmed for me what I had been feeling the previous week: a severe case of too many chiefs and not enough indians. Throughout the campaign thus far there has been a blatant lack of faith in the very product they they are trying to sell, with a constant refrain in the campaign being that with Ming you don’t just get the man, you get a whole team of young thrusting politicos.

I’m sorry, but so what? Is the Campbell Campaign claiming that Nick Clegg, Sarah Teather, Vince Cable, David Laws, et al would all resign en masse if either of the other two candidates were elected? Of course not. So we get them regardless of who gets elected as leader. It shouldn’t be a factor one way or another in this campaign.

Worse, the Campbell Campaign have now opted to describe their candidate as “a bridge to the future“. Did they market test that? It sounds to me like code for “stopgap” or “caretaker”. It is tantamount to saying that under Ming, the whole party will be engaging in a performance of “Waiting for Cleggot,” the danger being that – like the Beckett play – the eponymous character never actually arrives in the end (ask Portillo or David Davis about the weight of expectation).

I don’t understand why this tactic is being adopted. I’m sure I can’t be the only person who finds it a massive turn off. Remember that the bulk of those MPs who brought down Kennedy are backing Campbell. Two weeks ago they were assuring anyone who would listen that simply making do with a compromised leader in the hope that someone better will be ready in a few years wasn’t good enough; now they’re insisting that what we need is a dose of more of the same. I’m no longer prepared to accept that prescription.

What I want to see from Campbell’s campaign is, well, the candidate. He has a truly inspiring life story, an enviable parliamentary record and credibility coming out of his ears. I don’t give a fig about anyone else, they come later. It is high time they started believing in their own candidate and treating him with greater respect.

I can’t at this point see how I wouldn’t give him my second preference (Simon just doesn’t cut it in my view), but I’d genuinely like to cast it positively rather than out of resignation.